The world became very excited this week when it was claimed that an asteroid called ‘Oumuamua could actually be an alien spaceship.
But elation quickly turned to confusion when much of humankind realised they couldn’t pronounce the name of the damned thing.
And if you thought that was bad, journalists around the world were baffled by the fact its name was incredibly difficult to spell – even before you factor in the apostrophe before the first letter ‘O’.
The cigar-shaped was the first asteroid to enter our solar system from interstellar space and was immediately scanned to see if was producing radio waves.
Sadly, early data suggests it’s not a probe sent by some mysterious alien civilisation, even though it’s behaving a bit like a spaceship with broken engines.
So here’s your guide to this mysterious object’s even more mysterious name.
How do I pronounce ‘Oumuamua?
Imagine you’re creatively describing a cow, which you might call a ‘mooer’.
Then imagine you’re writing a piece of poetry about this beautiful bovine.
And there you have it: ‘Oh mooer mooer.’
What does the name ‘Oumuamua mean?
Astronomers from the University of Hawaii were the first to spot Oumuamua, so they named it after the Hawaiian term for ‘scout’ or ‘messenger’.
It was discovered on October 19 using the Pan-STARRS telescope which is situated near the summit of a volcano on the island of Maui.
The apostrophe in its name is actually a Haiwaiian letter called ‘okina.
This is pronounced as a glottal stop, which is most familiar to British people as the sound made when cockneys drop the letter ‘t’ in words like butter.
Why did scientists think it was an alien spaceship?
First of all, you just need to look at the shape of the thing.
An organisation called Breakthrough Listen, which is currently chewing through data to discover if the object is an asteroid or an alien probe, wrote: ‘Researchers working on long-distance space transportation have previously suggested that a cigar or needle shape is the most likely architecture for an interstellar spacecraft since this would minimize friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust.’
‘Oumuamua is also ‘tumbling’ through space, which is the sort of motion scientists would expect from a spaceship with broken engines.
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